Pub Rants

If You Think You Are Going To Meet Up With An Agent At A Conference

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STATUS: Safely arrived in D.C. for the annual RWA conference. I started with a bang with a breakfast meeting at 9 a.m. Off and running.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY by Fergie

Because I was going to RWA, last week several previously published romance authors looking to get an agent on board for their career got in contact with me. They were hoping to meet me in person at the National conference.

Great idea! There’s only one problem. The timing. My schedule has already been booked up for over 4 weeks. I haven’t got an open slot to meet with a potentially new client—even if I’d like to!

Let’s say you’d really like to do this in the future. Here’s my suggestion for those of you who are previously published.

Start this process about 6 to 8 weeks before the conference. That’s when you want to get in touch. Offer to send samples of your work because any agent who might be contemplating a physical meet up will want to read your work first. We may or may not be a good fit for each other. (Also, I read widely so there is a chance that I might have read your work on my own but it’s probably more likely that I haven’t.) Seeing material is usually the best first step.

Once material is reviewed and I like what I see, then I’ll still have plenty of time to fit you into my schedule before the conference actually happens. This way we can then find out if we are a good match for each other both personally and professionally.

Big smile here.

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19 Responses

  1. carla said:

    Since I am not attending the RWA, I have taken your advice and I am sending Emmanuelle a query letter. She is one of the young agents you recommended on your last blog.
    The first improvement on my query is correctly spelling the agent’s name. On my original query to you, I called you Kristi–not a good idea.
    Try to have fun at the conference. Thanks for the advice to prepare 6 to 8 weeks before the RWA to meet with an agent.

  2. Anonymous said:

    You mention this is what “previously published” writers should do. Is the process any different for those in the “pre-published” category?

    Word verification: “forpts”- for points (brownie, extra-credit…), not for money

  3. Anonymous said:

    I’m never sure how much a good personal match matters. I mean, obviously you can’t dislike each other, but I don’t particularly want to be my agent’s -friend-, either. I have enough friends. (So does my agent–in addition to being 30 years older than I.)

    I don’t know. I guess it’s just a matter of emphasis, but I often see this ‘getting along’ overemphasized. It’s a professional relationship. It’s an -intimate- professional relationship, in some ways, but it’s still professional.

    If you give me intelligent feedback on projects, good direction on the career, and sell my shit, I’m happy to give you 15% and get out of your way–whether we’re personally fond of each other or not.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Anon 2:45

    “you give me intelligent feedback on projects, good direction on the career”

    I believe that is what is meant by getting along. You want feedback, some agents don’t do this or much of it. Same with direction. Some agents simply wait for you to write and then sell your shit. And some authors like it this way.

    The point is what does the agent do? What do you want? Are you a good match?

    I don’t think it’s about being buddies.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Yeah, you’re right, 4:48. I’m just (over) reacting to my suspicion that many people looking for representation assume that the personal relationship is larger than that.

    I think, actually, that these lovely agents who blog (Kristin being v. guilty of this, as she’s extra-lovely!) kinda give writers the wrong idea. They make agents appear almost -human-. Ahem. No, but seriously, they make agents seem like people you’d wanna hang with, have a mojito and talk about movies and whatnot. Like maybe I’ll give Binky a call to tell her how my son’s toilet-training is coming along–because she’d naturally be interested, right?


    And I’m sure if I were Dan Brown, my agent would be thrilled to pretend interest in my son’s bowels. But I’m not. I’m a midlist author nobody’s ever heard of. My agent’s made $30,000 off me in the past five years. We like each other fine but, as you said, we’re not buddies. What we are is income sources of uncertain reliability. I just thought that making that clear might be worthwhile.

    Um, and I’m busily not working on a rough draft. So I’ll offer an opinion about -anything- right now …

    Mr. 2:45

  6. Anonymous said:

    What about those that are not previously published but would like to catch an agents eye at a conference (perhaps even before the event itself)? Do you have any advice to offer on that subject? Thanks.

  7. Mechelle Fogelsong said:

    Okay, so agent = business partner, not friend. Got it. Don’t call them to discuss potty training. Got it. Set up meeting way in advance. Got it.

    I’m off to the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference on July 31st, and I’ve set up a meeting w/ an agent way in advance. I get a whopping 5 minutes to wow her w/ my pitch. Bought some of her agency’s books online. Read ’em. Perused their site half a dozen times to make sure I understand all about this agency. Read Making the Perfect Pitch by Katherine Sands. Read How to Get a Literary Agent by Michael Larsen. Read the Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. Okay. So I’m well-read.

    Now in my five minute pitch, how do I WOW that agent? Memorize my synopsis? Bring crib notes on a 3×5 notecard? Wear nice shoes? Avoid picking my nose? Bring chocolate? Try not to fart?

    I know what I want from an agent, but I’m still wondering what makes a good fit from her perspective. I’m starting to wonder if doing my homework is just fluff, and it’s all about wearing nice shoes. I mean heck, how much of an impression can I possibly make in 5 minutes?

    I’m nervous as heck and the conference is still half a month away!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Mechelle Foogelsong —

    You are getting way ahead of yourself here. Take a deep breath. No agent at a conference is going to sign you because you impress her. Not to be mean in any way, but honestly, agents don’t care that much.

    Your WORK is why someone signs you. Yes, it’s important during a pitch appointment to not be a bitch or a needy, insecure, hot mess, but other than that it really is about your work.

    Talk about that.

    Afterwards, when you and the agent are both at home and in your real lives, you’ll send her a query later. You’ll mention your pitch appointment — “I was the one that praised your red shoes,” or, “we talked about our love of Little House on the Prarie,” or whatever — then you’ll go on to query her with the project you previously discussed.

    To be painfully honest, a lot of agents that go to conferences aren’t really looking for clients, anyway. Sure, they’d make room in their stable for someone named Dan Brown or Stephen King, but, you should go to the conference with the expectation of meeting other writers and learning stuff.

  9. Anonymous said:

    … I did get signed by an agent I heard speak at a conference (though I didn’t pitch to them at the conference, but months afterward).

    This agent was polished, smart, funny, AND we liked the same books. I didn’t find out all the other traits the agent had — never reading submitted work, never following up on subs, never telling me what was going on — until after I became a client.

    I think writers conferences make the hard sell of “Meeting Agents” as if that will really tell you lots about if you are “compatible” with a potential agent. In my opinion it really doesn’t. People are on their best behaviour during these things.

    A writer is never going to tell an agent that they are lazy, stupid, and will refuse to do rewrites — and agents aren’t going to tell writers that they aren’t going to shop their books well, or target them well, or never return their emails.

    So, essentially, everyone puts on lipstick, and carefully chosen jewelry, and are so busy trying to appear like they know what they are doing, they forget that the person they are trying hard to impress (writers OR agents) might not even be worthy of all that effort.

  10. Jali said:

    Delurking to leave you this article from Slate on e-book prices and comparisons to the music industry. They make an interesting point about how the lag time between development of mp3s (around 1999) and the iTunes store as the first really accessible online way to legally buy mp3s allowed for an entire generation of (young) consumers to form the mindset that songs “should” be free. I’d be curious to read people’s thoughts on whether the book industry could be headed in a similar direction

  11. Anonymous said:


    You sound impressively well-prepared! All you can really do now is say, “The book’s about a robot girl who discovers her mother is a squirrel,” or whatever.

    And if the agent is looking for a robot girl book or a squirrel book, she or he will be interested. If not, not. The way you word your pitch, your animation and charm (given that you’re somewhere within the normal human range!), and your footwear, sadly, don’t matter all that much.

    This is just one more thing over which we have Very Little Control. You seem to have done all your homework, and possibly someone else’s as well, so now it’s time to trust to luck.

    Which sucks. But there it is. If the project is good enough, you’ve just gotta hit the right person on the right day.

    And getting an agent is the easy part. Goddamn Penguin rejected my latest work of genius yesterday, and I hate them all.


  12. Laura Martone said:

    Thanks, Kristin, for the advice – and thanks to all the commenters here. Although I’m a long way off from sending queries to agents (much less trying to meet them at conferences), I appreciate the beforehand knowledge.

    And, Anon 2:45, I’m sorry to hear about Penguin. What a bummer.

  13. Mechelle Fogelsong said:

    Anonymous at 2:45, how did you know I wrote a book about a robot girl whose mother is a squirrel?

    Thanks for the reality slap. I’ll go to the conference smiling and come out grinning even wider, knowing that someone, somewhere, wants to read about robot girls with squirrelly mothers. It’s only a matter of time! ;}

  14. Anonymous said:

    Because you’re clearly too clever to write about a squirrel girl whose mother is a robot. That is so last year!

    Good luck, and don’t let the b. get you d.